Steve's Digicams Forums

Steve's Digicams Forums (
-   General Discussion (
-   -   What can I learn from film photography? (

Hyun Feb 18, 2003 11:11 PM

What can I learn from film photography?
The last film camera I used was a Canon SureShot, a pure point-and-shoot camera I purchased over 10 years ago. Now I'm on my 3rd digital camera (Olympus C-4000), and finally feel like I'm learning a little bit about photography.

I was browsing through recently, and came across their film camera section. I noticed that you could get a decent beginner's SLR camera complete with lens for under $300 (Canon EOS Rebel 2000). This got me thinking. Can a traditional film camera teach me different aspects of photography better than a digital camera can? Or can/do they complement each other? Right now I'm trying really hard to get out of the mind frame where I shoot everything possible multiple times with the C-4000 and hope that at least one or two of them will turn out OK. I would like to be more deliberate and systematic in my approach to composing and taking pictures.

Of course I am not going to give up digital cameras and go solely to film cameras--I appreciate the convenience too much, and the quality I achieve is good enough for me now--but I wanted to know if I could become a better photographer by understanding and being exposed to film photography.

I would appreciate any feedback, especially from those of you who also have SLR film photography background.

gverde Feb 19, 2003 9:58 AM


I've used a traditional Canon SLR all my life and just switched to a Nikon 5700 last year. I haven't used my Canon since then. I took a basic photography course when I was in college, so I knew the basics of photography. You may want to take a course or read some books on the subject. I don't think learning from a traditional SLR will help. I actuallly think my Nikon is easier to learn by. When you can actually see the photo taken is a big plus. You can then compensate for aperature, speed, ASA, etc. With An SLR you have a ball park idea of how it willl look but really not after the film is developed. I used to write down the different exposures and compare them with the developed prints. The most difficult situations to photograph is indoors with a flash. I used to get so frustrated with my Canon because alot of shots were blurry, overexposed, underexposed. You also had to pay for those photos. With digital you can compensate on the fly and print only the shots you like. Hope this helps. Glenn

Nikon 5700

steve6 Feb 19, 2003 11:31 AM

There's nothing like digital to teach you photography. All good photographers take plenty of shots (bracketing) to ensure it's spot on.

Unless you have shed loads of dosh to do the same with film digital wins hands down.

Igas Feb 19, 2003 12:09 PM

Roughly 35 years ago I bought (don't ask me where I got the money from!) my first "real" camera - a Pentax Spotmatic F, which was successor to the much-revered, original Spotmatic, but with 'F'ull-aperture metering. Shooting mostly in monochrome (colour was expensive and not quite 'there' yet) I used to fire off roll after roll and rush to the nearest shop to get them processed. The results were nothing short of abysmal. I had obviously no control over cropping, dodging, print size, etc. So I begged, borrowed and stole until I had my own gear to do the whole thing myself. When I saw my first 10x8 coming to life slowly in the developing dish, I almost ran out in the street shouting 'Eureka.'
Believe me, the feeling when you have total control over your work is indescribable. I never visited a photo-processing shop again. And this is what we get today with digital, without the messy and stinking chemicals, not to mention the laboratory-standard quality control you need should you decide to process and print colour negative or transparencies.

In my humble opinion there is not much to be learned from the traditional photographic process as regards the final image- content/quality of your work. After all, the ingredients for a winning shot still remain lighting, composition and subject matter. Not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily captured on film!

When digital SLRs and their lenses start to become affordable to people other than Bill Gates it will be the beginning of the end for film and film-cameras, at least in the amateur world.

steve6 Feb 19, 2003 12:39 PM


When digital SLRs and their lenses start to become affordable to people other than Bill Gates
Roll on

The_Oz Feb 19, 2003 2:59 PM

The one thing I did learn recently regarding 35mm film vs. Digital is how Depth-of-Field works on both. As much as I'd like to work with 35mm film, I'm sticking to digital for now...primarily due to cost reasons.



BillDrew Feb 19, 2003 3:47 PM

I agree with the general sense that digital camera are better to learn with because of the almost instant feedback and because the metadata (EXIF) notes are automatically kept.

However, the books that have been written about chemical photography are still well worth reading. In particular those by the masters - Adams, Weston, ... Those books use some of the best photographs ever made to illustrate the text. Read those books to gain an understanding of the problems of photography - not the solution. As an example, in "The Camera" Adams talks about using the lifts and shifts of a view camera to deal with perspective "distortion". With digital the solution is different (photo editor), but the problem is the same.

So I suggest heading to your library to read about chemical photography, not to the camera shop to buy chemical equipment.

geof Feb 19, 2003 3:47 PM


All good photographers take plenty of shots (bracketing) to ensure it's spot on.
Steve's comment shows the progress of picture taking. When Large or medium photos were the "only real tools" people did not bracket that much. This came with the advent of the "small format" a.k.a. 35mm, where bracketing was possible with the less expensive films. Larger format afficionados said that the careful attention to composing and metering a shot was abandoned with the film rolls and auto metering.
This seems to be the issue with the digital world: film users consider digital photographers "snap shooters"; I have seen this in my photo club.
I think that you need to pay attention to the shot BEFORE you take it: photoshop can only enhance a good photo, not create one.
Whether its digital or film is not the issue; I think you may want to enhance your understanding of how light is captured in your images and how to use that effectively. You can do that with a difital camera as well as anything, but the plethora of film books will be a great learning tool.
In the end, photography is photography; only the tools are different.
Hope it helps.

jsmeeker Feb 19, 2003 7:05 PM

Instant feed back is great. But IMHO, digital makes it easier to get "sloppy" with basic technique. You know, things like exposure and such. You don't want to always be thinking "Who cares. I can fix it in photoshop later". If you really want to see how good you are are composing and setting exposure for a shot, use a 35mm film camera with slide film and sent the film to a decent lab.

Just my humble opinion, of course.

Hyun Feb 19, 2003 10:29 PM

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and measured responses. I appreciate it very much.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 3:04 PM.